Some artists just have their heads in the clouds

The Washington Post Sunday - - GALLERIES | DIASPORA - BY MARK JENK­INS www.vis­arts­cen­ www.wa­verlystreet­ www.zenith­­lowa­ Jenk­ins is a free­lance writer.

Some mid-20th-cen­tury Cal­i­for­nia artists distin­guished them­selves by em­u­lat­ing the glossy fin­ishes of cars, mo­tor­cy­cles and surf­boards. One of the heirs to that candy-col­ored tra­di­tion is artist, teacher and soft­ware de­signer Greg Braun, who lives in small-town Vir­ginia but is de­voted to cus­tom-built 1970s mo­tor­cy­cles from North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. In “Sharp­ened,” Braun’s show at Vis Arts, such pe­riod me­chan­i­cal de­sign is chopped into a va­ri­ety of ab­stract forms, from In­ter­na­tional Style ar­chi­tec­ture to the sen­sa­tion of move­ment.

Made of wood, dry­wall and some­times me­tal tub­ing, Braun’s sculp­tures celebrate stream­lin­ing. Six floor pieces are wing-like struc­tures, and two wall-mounted ones are se­quences of fins de­signed to sug­gest both a jour­ney through a chang­ing land­scape and the ma­chine that pro­vides the lo­co­mo­tion. Sur­faces are painted a sin­gle bright color but with con­trast­ing shades on edges and op­po­site sides, and some­times tran­si­tions spat­ter from one hue to the next. Com­pared to real chop­pers and hot rods, these con­struc­tions are aus­tere, but aus­tere in hot red, yel­low and fuch­sia.

At one end of the gallery, a large-for­mat photo of a mod­ernist Foggy Bot­tom build­ing spot­lights its aero­dy­namic af­fec­ta­tions. At the other, the yel­low and blue “Sky Viper” surges 12 feet up; it’s the closet thing to a sky­scraper the artist could have built un­der this ceil­ing. The tower stands near six com­puter ter­mi­nals on which Braun, who teaches com­puter-as­sisted de­sign, has cached di­verse in­spi­ra­tions for his style.

Is “Sharp­ened” an in­dus­trial work­shop or a re­tail show­room? Nei­ther, but it plays at be­ing both. In dis­play win­dows fac­ing the street, Braun has mounted pens that ap­pear to be launch­ing like rock­ets. The artist, who did some­thing sim­i­lar with pen­cils re­cently at the Work house Arts Cen­ter in Lor­ton, clearly rel­ishes things that are con­toured, even if point­lessly, for thrust. In Braun’s uni­verse, ev­ery­thing is bet­ter if it at least ap­pears ready to zoom.

Greg Braun: Sharp­ened On view through July 5 at Gibbs Street Gallery, Vis Arts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville, Md. 301-315-8200.

Tom Kenyon

A car buff, Tom Kenyon has built a full-size model of a lit­tle road­ster for his show at Waverly Street Gallery, “Dreams of Speed ... Su­per­charged!” Pa­per-and-plas­tic fac­sim­i­les of car parts are scat­tered through the se­lec­tion, but most of the works are small col­lages or linoleum block prints. There’s a mid-20th-cen­tury sen­si­bil­ity to Kenyon’s work: Oneof the col­lages in­cludes a Mar­i­lyn Monroe-like pinup, and sev­eral pieces are printed on por­tions of Ja­panese news­pa­pers, evok­ing the era when Asian-made cars were just be­gin­ning to be taken se­ri­ously. Whether de­pict­ing a full ve­hi­cle or just a spark plug, Kenyon fa­vors clean lines and hu­man crafts­man­ship. He shows no more in­ter­est in com­put­er­ized cars than he does in dig­i­tal prints.

Tom Kenyon: Dreams of Speed ...

Su­per­charged! On view through July 3 at Waverly Street Gallery, 4600 East-West Hwy., Bethesda, Md. 301-951-9441. “Dream of the Sea,” by Emily Pic­cir­illo is part of her “Lu­cent Mo­ments” ex­hi­bi­tion at Zenith Gallery. Pic­cir­illo at­taches her paint­ings to me­tal rods, which al­lows the can­vases to re­flect the sur­face be­hind them. The pic­tures de­pict the play of clouds, sky and un­seen sun, and the hues bounc­ing from be­hind the im­ages add another lu­mi­nous el­e­ment.

Emily Pic­cir­illo

Emily Pic­cir­illo doesn’t sim­ply paint clouds; she also floats them in space. The mul­ti­panel pic­tures in her “Lu­cent Mo­ments,” at Zenith Gallery, are ar­ranged in grids and at­tached to me­tal rods. The steel frames hold the paint­ings taut and away from the wall, and vivid color fields on the back of the can­vases gen­tly re­flect off the sur­face be­hind them. The pic­tures de­pict the play of clouds, sky and un­seen sun, and the hues bounc­ing from be­hind the im­ages add another lu­mi­nous el­e­ment.

The lo­cal artist’s style is pho­to­re­al­ist, so the white wisps and azure back­drops are ren­dered ex­act­ingly. Since she usu­ally ar­rays vari­a­tions on the same scene, the paint­ings re­call pop art’s taste for rep­e­ti­tion. Pic­cir­illo, how­ever, uses nei­ther pho­tog­ra­phy nor lithog­ra­phy. She’s part min­i­mal­ist, part neo­clas­si­cal re­al­ist.

Pic­cir­illo tweaks her cus­tom­ary sub­ject by sil­hou­et­ting black trees in front of blue sky, or even de­pict­ing only trees, al­ways from a gaz­ing-heav­en­ward per­spec­tive. She some­times per­fo­rates pat­terns in the can­vas or cuts a square from a pic­ture and re­lo­cates it. Pink seeps into the lower pan­els in one com­po­si­tion, and “The Flesh We Breathe” pon­ders racism by sub­sti­tut­ing shades of brown for the usual deep blue and cot­tony white. Usu­ally, though, the lat­ter two col­ors are all she needs— at least on the front of the can­vas.

Lu­cent Mo­ments — The Works of

Emily Pic­cir­illo On view through July 3 at Zenith Gallery, 1429 Iris St. NW. 202-783-2963.

Caro­line Adams

Clouds are Caro­line Adams’s prin­ci­pal con­cern as well, yet some of the most strik­ing paint­ings in her “De­par­ture” at Su­san Cal­loway Fine Arts em­pha­size the tex­tures of earth. The show in­cludes a set of five pic­tures, grouped tightly to­gether, that are all blue back­drop and bil­lows of white and gray. Another co­he­sive se­ries is painted with egg tem­pera and oil on small wooden pan­els; these em­pha­size land over sky and de­ploy the pan­els’ grain to evoke the rough­ness of rock and soil. They also high­light the loose­ness of the artist’s brush­work, though spon­ta­neous ges­tures and wel­comed im­per­fec­tions also are vis­i­ble in large oils such as “Next Year.”

Adams, a well-trav­eled D.C. artist who’s about to move to Ger­many, fre­quently ti­tles her work with ref­er­ences to time. But paint­ings dubbed “Bright To­mor­row” or “Yesterday’s Af­ter­noon” don’t re­veal an ac­tual chronol­ogy. “Yesterday” and “to­mor­row” are al­ways in flux, which is why that five-paint­ing suite is so ex­pres­sive: It both freezes and mul­ti­plies the ideal in­stant of mem­ory or an­tic­i­pa­tion. De­par­ture: Caro­line Adams On view through July 11 at Su­san Cal­loway Fine Arts, 1643Wis­con­sin Ave. NW. 202-965-4601.

Kiu Kavousi

Nearby and re­mote scenery meld in the semi-imag­i­nary land­scapes of Kiu Kavousi, a lo­cal pain­ter who was born near the Caspian Sea. Work­ing with thinned and lay­ered acrylics, the artist makes all-over paint­ings whose sub­tle shifts of color sug­gest fields of wild­flow­ers or moun­tain slopes. Of­ten, and more re­al­is­ti­cally, he ren­ders boats beached on sandy shores, framed by large ex­panses of blue above.

Writ­ing of his child­hood in north­ern Iran, the artist de­scribes how the Al­borz Moun­tains di­vide the coun­try “like a gi­ant fab­ric cur­tain.” Per­haps that im­age is the in­spi­ra­tion for Kavousi’s paint­ings on card­board, folded hor­i­zon­tally to re­sem­ble a slat­ted blind, or on pa­per that’s ver­ti­cally and ir­reg­u­larly rum­pled. The ef­fect of “Blue Ridge Moun­tain,” the show’s largest piece, re­lies as much on its deep folds as its ex­u­ber­ant hues. It’s a craggy land­scape in it­self, as well as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of one.

Kiu Kavousi On view through July 9 at P Street Gal­lerie, 3235 P St. NW. 202-333-4868.


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